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Reflections on Veterans Day – Decades of service provide tools for psychology professor

October 27, 2022
UWSP Professor Justin Rueb, psychology, served in the U.S. Air Force.
UWSP Professor Justin Rueb, psychology, served in the U.S. Air Force.

As he does each Veterans Day, Professor Justin Rueb, psychology, will reflect on the loss of friends in the military who he met serving in the U.S. Air Force. The military shaped the first 25 years of Rueb’s career, teaching him lessons he would bring to UW-Stevens Point. 

Rueb, and his sister Candy, followed their father into service in the Air Force. Rueb said he was drawn to planes as a child. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy as an honor graduate with a degree in behavioral sciences and later received training as a B-52 navigator. 

A highlight of his service, Rueb said, was leading a team in Ohio, at Air Force Systems Command, responsible for modifying the cockpit of an aerial refueler (tanker). It led to technologies that would later replace the need for a navigator.  

He continued with graduate school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, earning his Ph.D. in industrial psychology. Rueb further developed an ability to understand people. Throughout his service — seven years in combat service at Minot Air Force Base and the former Carswell AFB and assignments in Saudi Arabia and Europe — Rueb grew accustomed to the “extreme flexibility” in the military.  

UWSP Professor Justin Rueb joined the Psychology Department in 2000.
UWSP Professor Justin Rueb joined the Psychology Department in 2000.

Sure, there were expectations of discipline and acting as a cohesive team, but the way he was forced to adjust, “on a dime” has sustained Professor Rueb throughout his career. Shifting gears comes naturally in his interactions with thousands of students in his psychology classes, over the course of more than 22 years teaching. 

Rueb has received four different teaching awards in his time at UW-Stevens Point and taught 14 different courses. Today, he teaches Cognitive Psychology, Introduction to Psychology, and Research Methods in Psychology.   

“I bring a different perspective. You have to adapt and understand people effectively to get ahead. I try to understand people,” said Rueb. 

He enjoys helping his students succeed both in lectures and labs and by introducing hundreds of students to study-abroad programs. Rueb developed the History of Psychology international summer abroad course in 2009, leading UWSP undergraduates to universities, museums and laboratories in Europe that emphasize methods psychologists use to study behavior. Traveling abroad is often the highlight for his psychology students, he said. Rueb has traveled to more than 30 countries during his university career, more than he visited in his military service.   

Teaching with his UWSP colleagues, who share his goals for student success, often echoes the shared sense of purpose Rueb had in his role as a lieutenant colonel with his former Air Force colleagues from across the country. Lessons of military service have served him well in his career at UW-Stevens Point, he said. “Nobody does it by themselves.”   

This Veterans Day, Rueb said, he will once again call his 95-year-old father to thank him for his 27 years of service.